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nobody wins

image courtesy of the cbc
because canada tends to be one of the countries that flies a little under the radar in most places, it's sort of notable when we suddenly get mentioned in a lot of international newscasts. unfortunately, that's too often for reasons we'd rather not have broadcast, as has been the case for the last few weeks with the shafia murder trial in kingston ontario. the trial has been front-page news here for months and the story has bobbed in and out of the news since the deaths of four female members of the shafia family in 2009, but towards the end of the trial of the family patriarch, his wife and their son, the world media suddenly started to pay attention.

notably, u.s. news giant cnn and al-jazeera [whose international news coverage has replaced the bbc as my go-to] picked the story up on both television and the web. while al-jazeera stuck strictly to a reporting of the facts, cnn anchors, notably plucky new evening host erin burnett and stalwart anderson cooper, were quick to emphasise the disgusting implications of murdering family members because of seemingly archaic notions of honour.

although the family plans to appeal, all three of the accused were convicted this week of the murders of the three shafia daughters and mohammed shafia's first wife, to whom he had quietly remained married in canada, despite the fact that polygamy is illegal here. many of us who were following the trial were relieved to hear this. despite the fact that the prosecution were able to establish only a tenuous physical link between the defendants and the crime and relied heavily on circumstantial evidence about life in the shafia household and surreptitious recordings made of the family in the wake of the deaths, most canadians, myself included, had concluded that the parents and son were guilty.

in the end, it was the father's words that truly condemned them all. the most inflammatory of his statements- calling his daughters whores, saying that he regretted nothing [without specifying exactly what he might have to regret] and, most infamously exclaiming "may the devil shit on their graves"- were quoted ad nauseum in virtually every report on the case and turned a latent sense of suspicion about the attitudes of muslims towards woman into an indignant fury.

image courtesy of the montreal gazette
the defense's argument was that terms like "whore" or the expressions used by the father were common in the dari language and in the culture of the afghanistan, where the family spent their early years, really only the equivalent of using a term like "idiot". i get that. anyone who has ever seen the slack-jawed response a briton gets when they use the word "cunt" to a north american is aware that idioms can vary considerably between cultures even when they speak the same language. but most of us still struggle to wrap our heads around the idea that a father would refer to his recently deceased daughters as "idiots", even if we buy the idea that the terms have no meaning beyond that. [although the fact that shafia was livid over the fact that his daughters had boyfriends and wore revealing clothes would indicate that the term "whore" likely carries the same implications as it does in english.] combined with the stories of violence and fear that apparently characterised life at the shafia household [social services and others had been involved in several family conflicts], even the most sympathetic view of mohammed shafia would still cast him as a pretty risible character.

so we're agreed: it's a good thing that he and his accomplices were convicted.

except it isn't. it's a just thing, but not good, which is an important distinction. the three shafia daughters and the first wife, who apparently tried to serve as their advocate within the family are still dead and were never able to escape the tyranny of the place they had to call home. their abbreviated lives were marked by fear and by a conflict of cultures that pitted their westernised desire for independence against their bond to their family.

despite repeated and passionate imprecations to the contrary by muslim scholars, officials and educated observers, the case serves to feed suspicions in canada and, as a result of the wide media coverage, internationally, that there is a barbarism to islam not present in other religions. this is the equivalent of judging all christians by the standards of jehovah's witnesses, a group known for their rigidity and often brutal treatment of community members who stray from the flock. they nominally follow the same religion, but the bulk of members condemn their extremism without a second thought.


what's worse is that the propagation of this kind of xenophobia makes it possible for legislators in many western countries to earn cheap points with their electorate by trying to ban face coverings or insisting that there is an imminent danger of the imposition of sharia law in canada. this sort of hysterical misdirection makes good headlines and distracts from real problems and misdeeds, as those in government are well aware.

and in the end, none of the three convicted have shown any sense of remorse over their actions. if we believe, as the jury did, that the father was referring to the murder when he said that, were they to come back to life, he would do the same thing a hundred times over, they are about as far removed from a sense of guilt as possible. the idea that parents would value their own sense of honour over the lives of their children seems antithetical to our most rudimentary drive- to survive and allow our species to flourish.

so, yes, i think that the jury reached the right conclusion. even in the absence of a confession, the truth speaks through the voices of the killers themselves. but it isn't a good thing. not for canadians, not for muslims, not for the broader audience worldwide and not even for the shafia family.

Comments

Danny Haszard said…
I appreciate your candid comments on the emotional brutality the Watchtower society forces on dissident members.

I was born raised 3rd generation Jehovah's Witness 1957.
As to what they believe the CORE doctrine of the Watchtower organization (JW) is that Jesus had his return,aka second coming October 1914 'invisibly' and they were the only ones who discerned it.They clearly are false prophets (Galatian 1:8)
My home page is about my JW upbringing.
Best regards,Danny Haszard
www.dannyhaszard.com

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